Blog 57. SEX AND ADDICTIONS: Is Stress Driving You Towards Obesity Or Towards Bulimia Or Anorexia Nervosa?
Some of you will have experienced this situation: Feeling empty you walk into the kitchen and you open the fridge door and look – not for what you may have to cook, but what you can eat, right now.
What you’re looking for might not even be in the fridge, so you head off to the larder where there is an assortment of foods like savoury or sweet biscuits, potato chips or crisps and so on. So you select one of the packets, and without much hesitation you eat every item in the packet.
But, with each mouthful you are reminded that at some point you will have finished eating what you selected and there will be nothing left.
So while you are eating, you start thinking about what you could eat next.
And you then head off to the cupboard again. You select something else to eat and you eat whatever is in the packet. This could go on until you really do feel very full. But at the same time you may also feel guilty or disgusted with yourself for being so gluttonous.
Yet your emptiness remains.
And if you were trying to lose weight, eating every thing in sight would also just make you feel awful and a failure, for having broken your diet.
Often this is when the excuse emerges – ‘I’ll start my diet again tomorrow’.
And this behaviour of self-punishments could go on and on. And in the meantime, if dieting is one of your habits you may find that compared to when you first started dieting – you will have actually put on more weight!
This is why most weight programs have been proven unsuccessful.
Because if you can remember what you weighed all those years ago, when you first thought you needed to lose weight, and if you could compare that with what you weigh now – you would be surprised to learn that the majority of people have discovered that even after all the dieting – they actually weigh far more than when they first started years ago.
And so dieting for many can be futile and often it leads to more self-loathing or self-hatred.
Also, what we feel about our bodies and we are expected to look like is also often fed to us by the media.
We are now living in rather strange times. We are told that people across the planet are wealthier than ever before yet this wealth seems to have come with a price tag – especially for those living in the West.
Our stress levels have soared and as a result of the Internet and social media, we are expected to have perfect lives, perfect relationships, perfect careers, perfect homes, and we are expected to have perfect physiques or bodies as well.
Then we are expected to sprawl our lives across Instagram, Facebook, and so on. If we then don’t get tons of ‘likes’ for what we have posted, our stress levels soar, pressuring us to get better photographs or ‘selfies’ so that we can get more ‘likes’. And this is how many people have become addicted to social media.
The need to be perfect is linked with the need to have more, to buy more and to have the latest in everything.
But this means that many families are now in debt. Many have ‘maxed out’ their credit cards and are struggling to make ends meet.
On top of this, parents are now working harder than ever before and we are seeing less stay-at-home mothers. And we are also not seeing families eating around a table having dinner any more. Often there is just not enough time. People now hurry what they eat or when they do eat – is either in front of a television, a computer game or a mobile phone.
Consequently, parents are spending less time bonding with their children because time is so limited.
But also, many prefer the convenience of eating ready-made meals.
The junk and fast food industries are making fortunes from this need.
For some, it is far easier to just pop something in the microwave than cook a proper meal, yet we forget that fast foods are packed with high levels of sugar and salt which is not helping feed our nutritional needs. And we all know that fast foods are creating more problems than many of us would like to admit. Worse still, is that children growing up in ‘fast food homes’ are not learning to cook. And gone are the days when families sit around a kitchen cooking – for some families anyway.
How we live our lives and all the expectations of daily living is causing stress: families are now more stressed and children are now more stressed.
People’s anxiety levels have escalated and we are now seeing more and more adults on medication.
People are being medicated for depression, diabetes, bi-polar disorder, ADHD, and so on.
And we are now also seeing children join the ‘medication queue’.
Before World War 2 or even World War 1, we never saw such a massive predominance of all the problems that are now being presented. This is why research points more to stress than genetics – as ‘the number one killer’.
In other words, our stress has reached dangerous levels and therefore each and every one of us needs to take a very long hard look at ourselves – to see exactly how and what type of stress we are adding to our lives.
Many are reporting that no matter how much they eat they still feel empty.
This emptiness is often an emotional emptiness. And often because we are so busy we don’t always have or make the time to recognise this.
Dieting does not focuses on the root cause. All it does is create more stress and it colludes with the negative self- belief system that many hold onto.
This is why most dieting programs should begin with a counselling program that helps people resolve their past traumas so that they can learn to love their bodies.
Running away from our problems may seem easier. And many prefer other behavioural methods like addictions to hide or even supplement their emotional needs.
But as I keep repeating: when we bury issues or when we bury our stress and trauma, it often has a way of rearing its ugly head – and just when we least expect it to.
And eating disorders is one way the body can signal that something is wrong.
If a person never felt loved or if they never felt good enough or worthy of being loved, they may have an inner conscious or unconscious need to ‘fill themselves up’, in order to feel nurtured.
This is similar to offering a baby a dummy or milk. And food (or drink) is often an adult’s way of replacing what they never had as children.
Unfortunately, if the deep-seated need goes unaddressed, the adult can become obese as they try to replace their childhood needs.
But also, the need to eat, or not eat, could arise from early physical or sexual abuse. Guilt is often a common underlying issue. Feeling a need to be punished, as discussed in previous blogs, often arises from feeling that somehow they were at fault for what happened. Over eating or not eating is therefore often one of the methods used as a form of self-punishment.
This is why eating disorders often go hand-in-hand with guilt, self-hatred and self-loathing.
Eating disorders are often thought of as an addiction.
When we feel down, it is strange how the brain can tune in to our deep-seated wounds.
Melody Green once said, “For those of us who have emotional eating issues there is often memories hidden ‘at core’ that keep them from healing and changing our lives and moving forward. Because the brain has done such a good job of hiding the incident (s) many are unable to decipher what has caused the issues thinking that it is a response to current emotions or emotions in general – again the brain’s way of coping”.
This is why we often fear that what we just ate isn’t enough. So we eat a little bit more. But, as we continue eating, the brain send further messages reminding us that we may need a little more. Yet many say they never really feel full. This is often because what they are trying to fill, is not their stomachs but what they lack emotionally.
This can be further understood by watching how people eat. Pushing food into their mouths without chewing properly points to a deep need for nurturing versus someone who has just done some serious exercise and who is very hungry. There is a subtle difference but a difference nevertheless.
The problem with an addiction is that whenever you think of giving it up, eating less OR drinking less etc, it seems to speed up the addiction and immediately it makes you want to eat or drink more.
This is the same with eating disorders – the worse you think you look, the more you eat and so the cycle continues.
With regards bulimics, they binge and purge and then the guilt of eating a substantial meal can cause the bulimic to head to the bathroom to vomit out their food. An anorexic on the other hand, can choose to starve themselves so that they can become more acceptable to themselves and to society.
However, many people working with either anorexics or bulimics will tell you that they are traumatised in some way and via guilt or self-punishment, they are desperately trying to control themselves, their environment – or indeed what may have happened long ago.
And eating disorders are like any other addictions. There is a build up of tension, then there is anticipation and this is followed by release and also the shame that follows.
If a child has been told that they are ugly, worthless, stupid, naughty, not good enough, fat, too thin and so on, they may go on to believe that this is true.
Even if a plump teenager who thinks of themselves as ‘fat’, loses weight and becomes thinner later on in life, unfortunately the image they held about themselves as a teenager will most probably persist.
And if what we believe is reinforced in any way as we grow up, that self-image often sticks to us like mud – and then we find ways of acting this out.
And as Simone de Beauvoir once said, “To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself.”
This is why the recent introduction of mindfulness and yoga may help us all find confidence and an inner strength to deal with the past so that we can all become more mindful or what and how we eat, and the messages that our bodies send to us.
The stress we are experiencing here in the West is phenomenal.
How we eat and what we eat is becoming a symbol of that stress. If we hold onto stress or trauma our bodies become exhausted and it then signals to us via dis-ease, that something is wrong.
We are not all the same shape and we need to celebrate this. But when we use food to punish ourselves we need to become aware and aware of the ‘why’.
Bulimia or Anorexia is not a fashion statement – it is a cry for help. Obesity is a cry for help.
Pema Chodron said that, “The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
And the relief, many feel when they finally release their inner pain is so beautiful to witness – and yet it is so sad to see many who still choose not to.
If this is you please think again. You can because you ARE worth it. What was said or done to you happened in childhood. Now you are an adult and you don’t have to hang onto what is not helping you move forward.
And once again what Soren Kierkegaard said was so true, ‘In Life one is condemned to live life forwards and to understand it backwards’.
© 2017 Information Copyright Deidré Wallace
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